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I've been reading a lot of sites to see the best way to get the packages in Texlive installed in my Ubuntu based system.

So far, these are the texlive packages I've seen recommended:

texlive-full
texlive-latex-base
texlive-latex-extra
texlive-latex-recommended
texlive-generic-extra

each one to be installed via sudo apt-get install <package>.

The first one, texlive-full is clearly the largest one containing (I assume) everything that can be found in the others. But, what do the others meta-packages contain? What are the differences between them and which one should I install to get a working LaTeX environment under Ubuntu as fast and as lean as possible?

  • 1
    Do not use apt get to install texlive. Packages are usually outdated by at least one year. Texlive country with its own package manager. Install ist from the installer provided by the Texlive page – MaxNoe May 21 '15 at 14:13
  • 2
    @MaxNoe that is not true. Debian jessie ships with packages based on the tlnet repository of around december 2014, and relativy recent binaries. Why do you recommend that unconditionally? I as TeX Live maintainer and Debian Developr of TeX Live use the Debian TL packages daily. If you don't have updatitis or really need a critical new pkg or fix, the Debian packages are fine! – norbert Jun 7 '15 at 4:40
  • We were talking about ubuntu – MaxNoe Jun 7 '15 at 6:54
9

Note: I have referred to a fresh new Debian GNU/Linux 10.0 (buster) installation while writing this answer. Since Ubuntu is a Debian-based distribution, I would expect these details to be similar in Ubuntu as well.

The table below shows the size of archives that would be downloaded and the additional disk space that would be used for each package installed with apt-get install command. Each size displayed include the size of the package being installed and the size of all dependencies that would be installed along with it.

Package Sizes

Package                    Archives  Disk Space
-------------------------  --------  ----------
texlive-latex-base            59 MB      216 MB
texlive-latex-recommended     74 MB      248 MB
texlive-pictures              83 MB      277 MB
texlive-fonts-recommended     83 MB      281 MB
texlive                       98 MB      314 MB
texlive-plain-generic         82 MB      261 MB
texlive-latex-extra          144 MB      452 MB
texlive-full                2804 MB     5358 MB

Package Details

  • texlive-latex-base: This package contains packages that are either mandated by the core LaTeX team, or very widely used and strongly recommended in practice.

    It includes 28 CTAN packages:

    ae, amscls, amsmath, babel, babel-english, babelbib, carlisle, colortbl, fancyhdr, fix2col, geometry, graphics, graphics-cfg, hyperref, latex, latex-bin, latex-fonts, latexconfig, ltxmisc, mfnfss, mptopdf, natbib, oberdiek, pslatex, psnfss, pspicture, tools, url
    
  • texlive-latex-recommended: It contains a collection of recommended add-on packages for LaTeX which have widespread use.

    Installing this package also installs texlive-latex-base because texlive-latex-recommended recommends tipa which depends on texlive-latex-base.

    It includes 62 CTAN packages:

    anysize, beamer, booktabs, breqn, caption, cite, cmap, crop, ctable, eso-pic, euenc, euler, etoolbox, extsizes, fancybox, fancyref, fancyvrb, filehook, float, fontspec, fp, index, jknapltx, koma-script, latexbug, l3experimental, l3kernel, l3packages, lineno, listings, lwarp, mathspec, mathtools, mdwtools, memoir, metalogo, microtype, ms, ntgclass, parskip, pdfpages, polyglossia, powerdot, psfrag, rcs, sansmath, section, seminar, sepnum, setspace, subfig, textcase, thumbpdf, translator, typehtml, ucharcat, underscore, unicode-math, xcolor, xkeyval, xltxtra, xunicode.
    
  • texlive-pictures: It contains packages for graphics, pictures, and diagrams including TikZ, pict, etc.

    Installing this package also installs texlive-latex-base and texlive-latex-recommended because this package depends on texlive-latex-recommended which in turn depends on texlive-latex-base.

    It includes 188 CTAN packages:

    adigraph, aobs-tikz, askmaps, asyfig, asypictureb, autoarea, bardiag, beamerswitch, binarytree, blochsphere, bloques, blox, bodegraph, bondgraph, bondgraphs, braids, bxeepic, cachepic, callouts, celtic, chemfig, combinedgraphics, circuitikz, curve, curve2e, curves, dcpic, diagmac2, ditaa, doc-pictex, dottex, dot2texi, dratex, drs, duotenzor, dynkin-diagrams, ecgdraw, eepic, ellipse, endofproofwd, epspdf, epspdfconversion, esk, euflag, fast-diagram, fig4latex, fitbox, flowchart, forest, genealogytree, getmap, gincltex, gnuplottex, gradientframe, grafcet, graph35, graphicxpsd, graphviz, gtrlib-largetrees, harveyballs, here, hf-tikz, hobby, hvfloat, istgame, knitting, knittingpattern, ladder, lapdf, latex-make, lpic, lroundrect, luamesh, luasseq, maker, makeshape, mathspic, milsymb, miniplot, mkpic, modiagram, neuralnetwork, numericplots, pb-diagram, penrose, petri-nets, pgf, pgf-blur, pgf-cmykshadings, pgf-soroban, pgf-spectra, pgf-umlcd, pgf-umlsd, pgfgantt, pgfkeyx, pgfmolbio, pgfopts, pgfornament, pgfplots, picinpar, pict2e, pictex, pictex2, pinlabel, pixelart, pmgraph, postage, prerex, productbox, pxpgfmark, qcircuit, quantikz, qrcode, randbild, randomwalk, realhats, reotex, rviewport, sa-tikz, schemabloc, scsnowman, scratch, scratch3, setdeck, signchart, smartdiagram, spath3, spectralsequences, swimgraf, table-fct, texdraw, ticollege, tipfr, tikz-3dplot, tikz-bayesnet, tikz-cd, tikz-dependency, tikz-dimline, tikz-feynhand, tikz-feynman, tikz-imagelabels, tikz-inet, tikz-kalender, tikz-karnaugh, tikz-ladder, tikz-layers, tikz-nef, tikz-network, tikz-opm, tikz-optics, tikz-page, tikz-palattice, tikz-qtree, tikz-relay, tikz-sfc, tikz-timing, tikz-truchet, tikzcodeblocks, tikzducks, tikzinclude, tikzlings, tikzmark, tikzmarmots, tikzorbital, tikzpagenodes, tikzpfeile, tikzpeople, tikzposter, tikzscale, tikzsymbols, timing-diagrams, tqft, tkz-base, tkz-berge, tkz-doc, tkz-euclide, tkz-fct, tkz-graph, tkz-kiviat, tkz-linknodes, tkz-orm, tkz-tab, tsemlines, tufte-latex, venndiagram, visualpstricks, xpicture, xypic
    
  • texlive-fonts-recommended: This package contains the recommended fonts, including the base 35 PostScript fonts, Latin Modern, TeX Gyre, and T1 and other encoding support for Computer Modern, in outline form.

    Installing this package also installs texlive-latex-base because it is one of the dependencies of this package.

    It includes 24 CTAN packages:

    avantgar, bookman, charter, cmextra, courier, ec, euro, euro-ce, eurosym, fpl, helvetic, marvosym, mathpazo, manfnt-font, mflogo-font, ncntrsbk, palatino, pxfonts, rsfs, symbol, times, txfonts, utopia, wasy, wasy2-ps, wasysym, zapfchan, zapfding
    
  • texlive: This metapackage provides a decent selection of the TeX Live packages which should suffice for the most common tasks.

    This is a metapackage, i.e., it does not include any CTAN packages of its own. It merely depends on texlive-latex-base, texlive-latex-recommended, and texlive-fonts-recommended. In other words, apt-get install texlive would be a convenient way to install a trimmed down TeX Live distribution with all the recommended CTAN packages.

  • texlive-plain-generic: This package contains add-on packages and macros that work with plain TeX, often LaTeX, and occasionally other formats.

    It includes 91 CTAN packages:

    abbr, abstyles, apnum, autoaligne, barr, bitelist, borceux, c-pascal, catcodes, chronosys, colorsep, cweb-old, dinat, dirtree, docbytex, dowith, eijkhout, encxvlna, epigram, epsf, epsf-dvipdfmx, fenixpar, figflow, fixpdfmag, fltpoint, fntproof, font-change, fontch, fontname, gates, genmisc, getoptk, gfnotation, gobble, graphics-pln, gtl, hlist, hyplain, ifetex, iftex, insbox, js-misc, kastrup, lambda-lists, langcode, lecturer, librarian, listofitems, mathdots, metatex, midnight, mkpattern, modulus, multido, navigator, newsletr, ofs, olsak-misc, path, pdf-trans, pitex, placeins-plain, plainpkg, plipsum, plnfss, plstmary, poormanlog, present, randomlist, resumemac, schemata, shade, simplekv, systeme, tabto-generic, termmenu, tex-ps, tex4ht, texapi, texdate, timetable, tracklang, treetex, trigonometry, ulem, upca, varisize, xii, xii-lat, xlop, yax
    
  • texlive-latex-extra: This package contains a very large collection of add-on packages.

    Installing this package also installs texlive-latex-base, texlive-latex-recommended, texlive-pictures, texlive-fonts-recommended, and texlive-plain-generic. This package depends on texlive-latex-recommended (which in turn depends on texlive-latex-base) and texlive-pictures. Further, this package recommends texlive-plain-generic and texlive-fonts-recommended.

    It includes 1239 CTAN packages:

    2up, ESIEEcv, GS1, HA-prosper, Tabbing, a0poster, a4wide, a5comb, abraces, abstract, achemso, acro, acronym, acroterm, actuarialangle, actuarialsymbol, addfont, addlines, adjmulticol, adjustbox, adrconv, advdate, akktex, akletter, alertmessage, alnumsec, alterqcm, altfont, amsaddr, animate, anonchap, answers, anyfontsize, appendix, appendixnumberbeamer, apptools, arcs, arrayjobx, arraysort, arydshln, asciilist, assignment, assoccnt, attachfile, aurl, authoraftertitle, authorarchive, authorindex, autonum, autopdf, avremu, axessibility, background, bankstatement, bashful, basicarith, bchart, beamer2thesis, beameraudience, beamercolorthemeowl, beamerdarkthemes, beamerposter, beamersubframe, beamertheme-cuerna, beamertheme-detlevcm, beamertheme-epyt, beamertheme-focus, beamertheme-light, beamertheme-metropolis, beamertheme-npbt, beamertheme-phnompenh, beamertheme-saintpetersburg, beamertheme-upenn-bc, beamerthemejltree, beamerthemenirma, beton, bewerbung, bez123, bezos, bhcexam, bibletext, bigfoot, bigints, biochemistry-colors, bizcard, blindtext, blkarray, block, blowup, bnumexpr, boites, bold-extra, bookcover, bookest, booklet, boolexpr, bophook, boxedminipage, boxedminipage2e, boxhandler, bracketkey, braket, breakurl, bullcntr, bussproofs, bxcalc, bxdpx-beamer, bxdvidriver, bxenclose, bxnewfont, bxpapersize, bxpdfver, bxtexlogo, calcage, calctab, calculator, calrsfs, cals, calxxxx-yyyy, cancel, canoniclayout, capt-of, captcont, captdef, carbohydrates, cases, casyl, catchfilebetweentags, catechis, catoptions, cbcoptic, ccaption, cclicenses, cd, cd-cover, cdpbundl, cellprops, cellspace, censor, changebar, changelayout, changelog, changepage, changes, chappg, chapterfolder, cheatsheet, chet, chextras, childdoc, chkfloat, chletter, chngcntr, chronology, circ, classics, classpack, clefval, cleveref, clipboard, clock, cloze, clrdblpg, clrstrip, cmdstring, cmdtrack, cmsd, cnltx, cntformats, cntperchap, codedoc, codepage, codesection, collcell, collectbox, colophon, colordoc, colorinfo, coloring, colorspace, colortab, colorwav, colorweb, colourchange, combelow, combine, comma, commado, commedit, comment, competences, concepts, concprog, constants, continue, contour, contracard, conv-xkv, cooking, cooking-units, cool, coollist, coolstr, coolthms, cooltooltips, coordsys, copyedit, copyrightbox, coseoul, counttexruns, courseoutline, coursepaper, coverpage, cprotect, crbox, crossreference, crossreftools, csquotes, css-colors, csvsimple, cuisine, currency, currfile, currvita, cutwin, cv, cv4tw, cweb-latex, cyber, cybercic, dashbox, dashrule, dashundergaps, dataref, datatool, dateiliste, datenumber, datetime, datetime2, datetime2-bahasai, datetime2-basque, datetime2-breton, datetime2-bulgarian, datetime2-catalan, datetime2-croatian, datetime2-czech, datetime2-danish, datetime2-dutch, datetime2-en-fulltext, datetime2-english, datetime2-esperanto, datetime2-estonian, datetime2-finnish, datetime2-french, datetime2-galician, datetime2-german, datetime2-greek, datetime2-hebrew, datetime2-icelandic, datetime2-irish, datetime2-italian, datetime2-it-fulltext, datetime2-latin, datetime2-lsorbian, datetime2-magyar, datetime2-norsk, datetime2-polish, datetime2-portuges, datetime2-romanian, datetime2-russian, datetime2-samin, datetime2-scottish, datetime2-serbian, datetime2-slovak, datetime2-slovene, datetime2-spanish, datetime2-swedish, datetime2-turkish, datetime2-ukrainian, datetime2-usorbian, datetime2-welsh, dblfloatfix, decimal, decorule, delimtxt, denisbdoc, diagbox, diagnose, dialogl, dichokey, dinbrief, directory, dirtytalk, dlfltxb, dnaseq, doclicense, docmfp, docmute, doctools, documentation, doi, dotarrow, dotseqn, download, dox, dpfloat, dprogress, drac, draftcopy, draftfigure, draftwatermark, dtk, dtxdescribe, dtxgallery, duckuments, ducksay, dvdcoll, dynamicnumber, dynblocks, ean13isbn, easy, easy-todo, easyfig, easyformat, easylist, easyreview, ebezier, ecclesiastic, ecv, ed, edmargin, eemeir, efbox, egplot, elegantbook, elegantnote, elegantpaper, elements, ellipsis, elmath, elocalloc, elpres, elzcards, emarks, embedall, embrac, emptypage, emulateapj, endfloat, endheads, endnotes, engpron, engrec, enotez, enumitem, enumitem-zref, envbig, environ, envlab, epigraph, epiolmec, eqell, eqlist, eqnalign, eqname, eqparbox, errata, erw-l3, esami, esdiff, esint, esint-type1, etaremune, etextools, etoc, eukdate, eulerpx, europasscv, europecv, everyhook, everypage, exam, exam-n, exam-randomizechoices, examdesign, exframe, example, examplep, exceltex, excludeonly, exercise, exercisebank, exercisepoints, exercises, exp-testopt, expdlist, export, exsheets, exsol, extract, facsimile, factura, fancyhandout, fancylabel, fancynum, fancypar, fancyslides, fancytabs, fancytooltips, fcolumn, fetchcls, ffslides, fgruler, fibeamer, fifo-stack, figsize, filecontents, filecontentsdef, filedate, fileinfo, filemod, fink, finstrut, fithesis, fixcmex, fixfoot, fixme, fixmetodonotes, fjodor, flabels, flacards, flagderiv, flashcards, flashmovie, flipbook, flippdf, floatflt, floatrow, flowfram, fmp, fmtcount, fn2end, fnbreak, fncychap, fncylab, fnpara, fnpct, fnumprint, foilhtml, fontaxes, fonttable, footmisc, footmisx, footnotebackref, footnotehyper, footnoterange, footnpag, forarray, foreign, forloop, formlett, forms16be, formular, fragments, frame, framed, frankenstein, frege, ftcap, ftnxtra, fullblck, fullminipage, fullwidth, fundus-calligra, fundus-cyr, fundus-sueterlin, fvextra, fwlw, g-brief, gatherenum, gauss, gcard, gcite, gender, genmpage, getfiledate, getitems, ginpenc, gitfile-info, gitinfo, gitinfo2, gitlog, gitver, globalvals, gloss, glossaries, glossaries-danish, glossaries-dutch, glossaries-english, glossaries-estonian, glossaries-extra, glossaries-finnish, glossaries-french, glossaries-german, glossaries-irish, glossaries-italian, glossaries-magyar, glossaries-polish, glossaries-portuges, glossaries-serbian, glossaries-spanish, gmdoc, gmdoc-enhance, gmiflink, gmutils, gmverb, grabbox, graphbox, graphicx-psmin, graphicxbox, grayhints, grfpaste, grid, grid-system, gridset, gridslides, guitlogo, halloweenmath, hackthefootline, handin, handout, hang, hanging, hardwrap, harnon-cv, harpoon, hc, he-she, hhtensor, histogr, hitec, hletter, hpsdiss, hrefhide, hvindex, hypdvips, hyper, hyperbar, hypernat, hyperxmp, hyphenat, identkey, idxcmds, idxlayout, iffont, ifmslide, ifmtarg, ifnextok, ifoddpage, ifplatform, ifthenx, iitem, image-gallery, imakeidx, import, incgraph, indextools, inline-images, inlinedef, inputtrc, interactiveworkbook, interfaces, intopdf, inversepath, invoice, invoice-class, invoice2, iso, iso10303, isodate, isodoc, isonums, isopt, isorot, isotope, issuulinks, iwhdp, jlabels, jslectureplanner, jumplines, jvlisting, kalendarium, kantlipsum, kerntest, keycommand, keyfloat, keyreader, keystroke, keyval2e, keyvaltable, kix, knowledge, koma-moderncvclassic, koma-script-sfs, komacv, komacv-rg, ktv-texdata, l3build, labbook, labels, labelschanged, lastpackage, lastpage, latex-tds, latex-uni8, latexcolors, latexdemo, latexgit, layouts, lazylist, lccaps, lcd, lcg, leading, leaflet, lectures, leftidx, leipzig, lengthconvert, lettre, lettrine, lewis, lhelp, libgreek, limap, linegoal, linop, lipsum, lisp-on-tex, listing, listlbls, listliketab, listofsymbols, lkproof, lmake, locality, localloc, logbox, logical-markup-utils, logpap, longfbox, longfigure, longnamefilelist, loops, lsc, lstaddons, lstfiracode, lt3graph, ltablex, ltabptch, ltxdockit, ltxguidex, ltxindex, ltxkeys, ltxnew, ltxtools, lua-check-hyphen, luatodonotes, macroswap, magaz, makecookbook, mailing, mailmerge, makebarcode, makebase, makebox, makecell, makecirc, makecmds, makedtx, makeglos, mandi, manfnt, manuscript, manyind, marginfit, marginfix, marginnote, markdown, mathalfa, mathastext, mathexam, mathfam256, mathfont, maybemath, mbenotes, mcaption, mceinleger, mcexam, mcite, mciteplus, mdframed, media9, medstarbeamer, meetingmins, memexsupp, memory, mensa-tex, menu, menukeys, metalogox, method, metre, mfirstuc, mftinc, mi-solns, midpage, minibox, minidocument, minifp, minipage-marginpar, minitoc, minorrevision, minted, minutes, mla-paper, mlist, mmap, mnotes, moderncv, modernposter, moderntimeline, modref, modroman, modular, monofill, moodle, moreenum, morefloats, morehype, moresize, moreverb, morewrites, movie15, mparhack, mpostinl, msc, msg, mslapa, mtgreek, multenum, multiaudience, multibbl, multicap, multicolrule, multidef, multienv, multiexpand, multilang, multirow, mversion, mwe, mycv, mylatexformat, nag, nameauth, namespc, ncclatex, ncctools, needspace, nestquot, newcommand, newenviron, newfile, newlfm, newspaper, newunicodechar, newvbtm, newverbs, nextpage, nfssext-cfr, nicefilelist, niceframe, nicetext, nidanfloat, nlctdoc, noconflict, noindentafter, noitcrul, nolbreaks, nomencl, nomentbl, nonfloat, nonumonpart, nopageno, normalcolor, notes, notespages, notestex, notoccite, nowidow, nox, ntheorem, numberedblock, numname, numprint, numspell, ocg-p, ocgx, ocgx2, ocr-latex, octavo, oldstyle, onlyamsmath, opcit, optidef, optional, options, outline, outliner, outlines, outlining, overlays, overpic, padcount, pagecolor, pagecont, pagenote, pagerange, pageslts, paper, papercdcase, papermas, papertex, paracol, parades, paralist, paresse, parnotes, parselines, pas-cours, pas-cv, pas-tableur, patch, patchcmd, pauldoc, pawpict, pax, pbox, pbsheet, pdf14, pdfcomment, pdfcprot, pdfmarginpar, pdfoverlay, pdfpagediff, pdfpc-movie, pdfprivacy, pdfreview, pdfscreen, pdfslide, pdfsync, pdfwin, pdfx, pecha, perltex, permute, petiteannonce, phffullpagefigure, phfnote, phfparen, phfqit, phfquotetext, phfsvnwatermark, phfthm, philex, phonenumbers, photo, piff, pkgloader, placeins, plantslabels, plates, plweb, polynom, polynomial, polytable, postcards, poster-mac, ppr-prv, preprint, pressrelease, prettyref, printlen, probsoln, program, progress, progressbar, proofread, properties, prosper, protex, protocol, psfragx, pstool, pstring, pxgreeks, pygmentex, python, qcm, qstest, qsymbols, quicktype, quotchap, quoting, quotmark, ran_toks, randtext, rccol, rcs-multi, rcsinfo, readarray, realboxes, recipe, recipebook, recipecard, rectopma, refcheck, refenums, reflectgraphics, refman, refstyle, regcount, regexpatch, register, regstats, relenc, relsize, repeatindex, repltext, returntogrid, rgltxdoc, rjlparshap, rlepsf, rmpage, robustcommand, robustindex, romanbar, romanbarpagenumber, romanneg, romannum, rotfloat, rotpages, roundbox, rterface, rtkinenc, rulercompass, rvwrite, sanitize-umlaut, sauerj, savefnmark, savesym, savetrees, scale, scalebar, scalerel, scanpages, scrlttr2copy, sdrt, secdot, sectionbox, sectionbreak, sectsty, seealso, selectp, semantic, semantic-markup, semioneside, semproc, sepfootnotes, seqsplit, sesstime, sf298, sffms, sfmath, shadethm, shadow, shadowtext, shapepar, shdoc, shipunov, shorttoc, show2e, showcharinbox, showdim, showexpl, showhyphens, showlabels, sidecap, sidenotes, silence, simplecd, simplecv, simpleinvoice, sitem, skb, skdoc, skeycommand, skeyval, skrapport, slantsc, smalltableof, smartunits, smartref, snapshot, snotez, soul, spark-otf, sparklines, sphack, splitindex, spot, spotcolor, spreadtab, spverbatim, srbook-mem, srcltx, sseq, sslides, stack, stackengine, standalone, stdclsdv, stealcaps, stdpage, stex, storebox, storecmd, stringstrings, sttools, stubs, studenthandouts, subdepth, subeqn, subeqnarray, subfigmat, subfigure, subfiles, subfloat, substitutefont, substr, supertabular, svg, svgcolor, svn, svn-multi, svn-prov, svninfo, syntax, syntrace, synttree, tabfigures, tableaux, tablefootnote, tableof, tablestyles, tablists, tabls, tablvar, tabstackengine, tabto-ltx, tabu, tabularborder, tabularcalc, tabularew, tabulary, tagging, tagpair, tagpdf, talk, tamefloats, tasks, tcldoc, tcolorbox, tdclock, technics, ted, templatetools, termcal, termlist, testhyphens, testidx, tex-label, tex-locale, texlogos, texmate, texments, texpower, texshade, texvc, textfit, textmerg, textpos, textualicomma, theoremref, thinsp, thmtools, threadcol, threeparttable, threeparttablex, thumb, thumbs, thumby, ticket, titlecaps, titlefoot, titlepic, titleref, titlesec, titling, tocbibind, tocdata, tocloft, tocvsec2, todo, todonotes, tokenizer, toolbox, topfloat, topiclongtable, totcount, totpages, translations, trfsigns, trimspaces, trivfloat, trsym, truncate, tucv, turnthepage, twoinone, twoup, txgreeks, type1cm, typed-checklist, typeface, typoaid, typogrid, uassign, ucs, uebungsblatt, umoline, underlin, underoverlap, undolabl, units, unravel, upmethodology, upquote, uri, ushort, uspace, uwmslide, variablelm, varindex, varsfromjobname, varwidth, vdmlisting, verbasef, verbatimbox, verbatimcopy, verbdef, verbments, version, versions, versonotes, vertbars, vgrid, vhistory, vmargin, volumes, vpe, vruler, vwcol, wallcalendar, wallpaper, warning, warpcol, was, widetable, widows-and-orphans, williams, withargs, wordcount, wordlike, worksheet, wrapfig, wtref, xargs, xassoccnt, xbmks, xcntperchap, xcolor-material, xcolor-solarized, xcomment, xcookybooky, xdoc, xellipsis, xfakebold, xfor, xhfill, xifthen, xint, xltabular, xmpincl, xnewcommand, xoptarg, xpatch, xpeek, xprintlen, xpunctuate, xsavebox, xsim, xstring, xtab, xurl, xwatermark, xytree, yafoot, yaletter, yagusylo, ycbook, ydoc, yplan, zebra-goodies, zed-csp, ziffer, zwgetfdate, zwpagelayout
    
  • texlive-full: This metapackage pulls all components of TeX Live.

    Installing this metapackage installs all the packages discussed above and much more. This metapackage depends on all Tex Live packages including all the above packages.

Dependency Graph

Here's a dependency graph which shows how the various Debian packages for TeX Live depend on each other.

                      texlive-latex-extra
                         |   |   :   :
       +-----------------+   |   :   :..................
       |                     |   :                     :
       v                     |   :                     v
texlive-pictures             |   :           texlive-plain-generic
       |                     |   :
       |    +----------------+   :...............
       |    |                                   :
       |    |              texlive              :
       |    |               | | |               :
       |    |    +----------+ | +----------+    :
       |    |    |            |            |    :
       v    v    v            |            v    v
texlive-latex-recommended     |  texlive-fonts-recommended
                 |            |            :
                 |            |            v
                 |            |           tipa
                 |            |            |
                 +----------+ | +----------+
                            | | |
                            v v v
                     texlive-latex-base

Here's the legend for the above graph:

      A                       A
      |                       :
      v                       v
      B                       B

A depends on B          A recommends B

The texlive-full package depends on all of the packages shown above (except texlive of course because that's a metapackage).

Installation Choices

Considering everything I have mentioned above, I see the following good choices for installing TeX Live on Debian or Ubuntu.

  • apt-get install texlive-base: This is a tiny installation. It downloads only 59 MB of archives and occupies only 216 MB of disk space. It is sufficient for only very basic and straightforward typesetting. Someone who has just started learning LaTeX may be able to perform their learning activities with this minimal installation. But it may not suffice for someone who creates presentations (beamer is missing), includes syntax-highlighted code blocks (listings and xcolor are missing), adds vertical space between paragraphs (parskip is missing), or customizes captions (caption is missing).

  • apt-get install texlive: This is a small installation. It downloads only 98 MB of archives and occupies 314 MB of disk space. It includes most of the useful stuff like beamer, listings, xcolor, parskip, caption, etc. I think one can go a long way with this installation. However, it may not be sufficient if you want to draw diagrams with TikZ (pgf is missing), or if you want to customize the section headings (titlesec is missing), or if you want to place boxes at absolute positions (textpos is missing).

  • apt-get install texlive-latex-extra: This is a medium installation. It downloads 144 MB of archives and occupies 452 MB of disk space. It includes a lot of packages. Almost all frequently used stuff are present. For example, pgf, titlesec, and textpos are present. This is what I usually install. Even with the large number of packages, it has a few useful things missing that I occassionally rely on. For example, I cannot include pretty icons with it (fontawesome is missing). For such things, I install them separately with tlmgr.

  • apt-get install texlive-full: This is a huge installation. It downloads 2.7 GB of archives and occupies 5.2 GB of disk space on installation. Once installed, we are all set for all kinds of typesetting work. We almost never have to worry about missing packages again.

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    Nice answer! Thank you! – Gabriel Aug 17 '19 at 13:47
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To get more information about the packages on a Debian/Ubuntu/Linx Mint system I would use apt-cache show package which gives you the description of the package, and what it will install. A very short summary of all the texlive packages can be found with apt-cache search texlive

As for which package to install, this depends very much on what you are planing on using them for. In my case I installed texlive-full as I'm writing articles in several fields, making presentations, etc. and didn't want to spend the time individually installing packages. You can always just start with texlive-latex-base and then just install the collections you need. (To find a collection with a package in use apt-cache search package) There is no good way yet to install individual packages in Ubuntu, as tlmgr will run in user mode (installing packages only for one user). There are ways of fixing this, but this requires the installation of texlive from source or a ppa. See this question.

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